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Blackjack or 21

Basic Rules of Blackjack

The ultimate goal in Blackjack is to attain a score as close as possible to 21 without going over. Before play proceeds, each player places a bet. The cards are valued by the number on the card (2 through 10 are as printed). All face-cards are valued as 10 points, and aces can be either 1 or 11 whichever is best for the player. The suits printed on the cards have no value whatsoever. So a hand containing 2, 6, 9 would equal 17 points. A hand containing an Ace and a six then could be either 7 or seventeen points.

Normally, each player is dealt one card and then each player is dealt another card. Depending on the casino and table these two cards may be dealt face-up or face-down. (It really does not matter which as the decisions by other players and the dealer are not dependent on the score in any other hand - except the dealers - where the first card is always dealt face-down and the subsequent card face-up.) Etiquette dictates if the cards are dealt face-up that the player not touch the cards. However, if the cards are dealt face down, the player should only handle the cards with one hand.

Once the two initial cards have been dealt out clock-wise from the dealer (including the dealer), the dealer then goes to the first player on his or her left and asks if he or she wants another card. The queried player then tallies his or her score and decides whether accepting another card will better the hand. If so "hit me" is pronounced by the player and he or she taps the table to indicate the desire for another card. If not the player says, "stand" and waves a hand over the cards. The player can take as many cards as he or she wishes until the score in the hand reaches or exceeds 21. Should the score in the hand go over 21 the player loses his or her bet to the dealer.

Once a player declines to be "hit" (elects to "stand pat") she may not take any more cards and must be satisfied with the score now in her hand. When all the players have gone through this process, the dealer then looks at his own cards. If the total score is under sixteen, he must take another card, and continue to do so until his score exceeds sixteen or surpasses 21. In the case of the dealer an Ace is always counted as 11 unless it would put the dealer over 21. This means that an initial 7 and A in the dealer's hand would equal 18 and the dealer would stand pat. While a 5 and A would require another card. Were that card an 8, for example, the Ace would now count as a 1 and the dealer would be required to take yet another card. Some casinos will hit on a "soft" 17, which will slightly increase the casino's odds of the dealer winning.

A hand with an Ace can have a score that can be called hard or soft. A soft score is one in which the ace can be used as either a 1 or 11. But a hard score would be one in which the ace can only be used as a 1 - such as a hand with A, 5, 8. In this case if the Ace were counted as 11 the hand's score would exceed 21 and the player would automatically lose his bet.

At this point the score of each person's hand is compared with the dealer's. Those players with scores higher than the dealer's collect the equivalent of their bet. Players with scores lower than that of the dealer lose their bet to the dealer. But the player has more options than simply taking a hit or standing pat. These options are described in the next section.

Next Page: Specific Rules of Blackjack


Remember blackjack is a gambling game. Players should never gamble more than they can afford to lose.

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